New Mexico courts have implemented a new digital program that allows businesses and individuals involved in debt or money disputes to negotiate a settlement online without having to set foot in a traditional courtroom.
The service, called Online Dispute Resolution or ODR, is free and was made available in courts in all 13 of New Mexico’s judicial districts and magistrate courts on Sept. 1.
ODR allows self-represented litigants to go through the process of negotiating a settlement in a debt or money dispute – such as a bank that sues a person for a credit card debt or a hospital for medical payments – through an online platform, according to information provided by the New Mexico Administrative Office for the Courts.
People can access ODR using a computer or any mobile device with internet access and is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Information from the Administrative Office for the Courts states the ODR process begins by asking questions of the parties involved about what they want that could lead to a resolution of their dispute.
The parties communicate by exchanging private messages using the ODR system. If no agreement is reached after two weeks, the program allows the parties to ask for the help of a trained mediator.
When an agreement is finally reached, the ODR system automatically prepares a settlement agreement and electronically files it in court, according to information from the Administrative Office for the Courts.
If more than 30 days have elapsed from the start of negotiations, the case will move forward to a court. The ODR can help make the legal process less costly and confusing for those involved.
“This gives them the opportunity to try and resolve this case without coming to court,” said James Hudson, Division VI Judge in the 5th Judicial District Court. The district encompasses Chaves, Eddy and Lea counties.
“So it is streamlining the process for both sides,” he added.
That is something needed in New Mexico, where civil cases account for three-fourths of the overall caseload in judicial districts. In 2018, about 51% of all newly filed civil cases in New Mexico had at least one party that was not represented by an attorney, according to the administrative office.
The ODR can help those litigants who do not have an attorney make their way through a legal system that can sometimes be hard to understand, and save people the need to travel long distances to court, especially in rural areas.
The ODR system was created by Tyler Technologies, a Texas company. The state judiciary worked with Tyler Technologies since last year to make the system fit the needs of New Mexico when it comes to debt and money disputes.
As part of a contract entered into by the state judiciary with Tyler Technologies, Tyler will receive a fee for each case that goes through the system. The New Mexico Legislature, however, allocated funds to the Administrative Office of the Courts to cover the fees, so it will not cost litigants anything in a dispute to use the new technology.
The ODR system was piloted by courts within the 2nd Judicial District and Bernalillo Metropolitan Court; district and magistrate courts within the 6th Judicial District and the magistrate court in Bayard; along with district and magistrate courts in Clovis and Portales in the 9th Judicial District, according to information provided by the Administrative Office of the Courts.
Hudson said he sees the availability of the ODR as a way to advance excellence in the New Mexico Judiciary by developing ways to address cases faster, while making the legal process more efficient and accessible to the public.
“I think it is a good step and something to look at, and it will be interesting to see to the extent it will work and help people,” Hudson said of the ODR.
People can learn more about the ODR by visiting https://adr.nmcourts.gov/odr.aspx.
Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or at email@example.com.